Cycling on Pavements


CCNB does not condone illegal pavement cycling.


Pavements/footways are paths for pedestrians at the side of roads whereas footpaths are paths for pedestrians that are away from the carriageway.


Cycling is only permitted on a footway/pavement provided that the Highway Authority has designated all or part of it as a cycle track under the terms of the Cycle Track Act 1984 and it is signed. The cycle track can be either shared (dual) use or segregated use.

It is also strictly the case for children although under the age of 10 years they are below the age of criminal responsibility.

In the case of paths through parks or greenways it is only an offence where local by-laws or traffic regulation orders create such an offence. No by-laws of this type exist in Bedford Borough. It should be noted that in rural areas, unless permitted by the landowner, cycling on a footpath in England and Wales normally constitutes trespass, making it a civil but not a criminal matter.

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for pavement cycling were introduced in 1999 by the then Home Office Minister, Paul Boateng. In the guidance given to Chief police officers who are responsible for enforcement it stated:

"The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road and sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required."

This guidance was re-affirmed in 2014 by the then Minister for Cycling, Robert Goodwill.

Reasons why people cycle on pavements

Safety – Many cyclists consider that roads with large volumes of speeding traffic are too dangerous to cycle along and so prefer to ride on off-road cycle paths/tracks and sometimes illegally on pavements. This particularly applies to the less confident, inexperienced or young cyclists as well as the elderly, and includes a lot of disabled/partially disabled people who use a bicycle or tricycle to enable them to remain mobile.

Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on off-road cycle paths is often more perceived than real. It can be mitigated by good design.

Inconsistent signing – Not all off-road cycle paths/tracks are adequately signed so cyclists are not always aware when they are riding on an illegal section. Similarly pedestrians do not always realise they are on a legal cycle path/track and on segregated paths many are not aware they should keep to the pedestrian side.

Not aware of law – Some cyclists have a negligible or non-existent knowledge of the law (or Highway Code) relating to bicycle use.

Unsociable Behaviour – The irresponsible minority do not respect other users and tend to ride at high speed.

Requirements to minimise pedestrian conflict and encourage more cyclists to use the road

Studies have shown that conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on off-road cycle paths is often more perceived than real.

Infrastructure - All off-road dual use/segregated cycle paths and on-road cycle lanes must be constructed to high standards of safety and design.

For off-road cycle paths/tracks attention must be paid to sight-lines, obstructions such as bollards, barriers, lamp columns, lighting and maintenance.

For on-road cycle lanes all junctions and roundabouts must be cycle friendly.

Cycle Audit – All cycle facilities must be subjected to cycle user audits and road safety audits in accordance with the appropriate guidelines.

Training – Children and (adults) should be encouraged to have cycle training to Bikeability Level 3, a must for cycling on busy roads.

Recent studies have shown that children who have had cycle training are less likely to cycle on pavements.

Responsibility (on dual use or segregated paths) - Cyclist should ride at slow speeds and always give way to pedestrians and wheelchair users. Some people are hard of hearing or visually impaired so do not assume they can hear or see you. Ring your bell twice or politely call out to warn of your approach and acknowledge people who give way to you.

On segregated paths both pedestrians and cyclists should endeavour to keep to their part of the path.

Dogs should be kept under control, particularly those on extendable leads.

Volume/speed of traffic – All residential roads and those near schools and town or local shopping centres should be 20mph speed areas or zones to improve the quality of life of all residents but particularly to encourage cyclists to use the road or only off-road cycle paths.

Enforcement – Action should be taken against the minority of cyclists who give cyclists a bad name by riding recklessly not only on legal/illegal pavements but also on the road.

In the same way action should also be taken against vehicle drivers who drive and park on pavements and obstruct cycle paths and lanes and the minority of mobility scooter riders who ride recklessly.

A Code of Conduct for Cyclists on Shared Use Paths

CCNB's leaflet on 'A code of conduct for cyclists on shared use paths can be seen here.

Cycling in Bedford is encouraged but NOT on the pavement

A brief July 2019 CCNB article on this topic can be seen here.

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